Where everyone has a story, every tale has pieces that make it unique. If you do not define these pieces, you lose the power to own your story.
“In life, the only true possession we have is self-possession.”
I remember reading these words during one of the longest weeks of my life. In a particularly long period of introspection, this thought still stands out to me as one of the most profound I ever read.
No matter what else you win, buy, or accomplish, the only thing you ever really own is yourself.
While a stirring and beautiful thought, its application to life must equally be met with a degree of honesty, courage, and reverence. If the only thing that you ever own is yourself, this means the only thing you can ever sell is your story.
Your story, the tales that make you unique, the moments that have defined your path; these are what we are providing to others. This is the one product that we can control. If we are to be successful in inspiring others and in advancing our communities, we must realize it all begins with our story. How you sell your story will vary depending on your circumstances but regardless of how, telling your story should be one of your priorities.
Thinking on the concept of storytelling, it is important you have the answer to numerous questions. What is your story and how are you telling it? Have you defined this or are others telling your story for you? How is your story creating change?
While these queries are only a few of those we must answer if we are to take ownership over our self-possession, they are crucial in cultivating a story that is worth telling.
By defining our story, we begin conversations that inspire others. By sharing our story, we promote causes worthy of change. By controlling our story, we further our self-possession. In looking at these three veins, it is essential we understand how to properly craft a tale that not only we, but others, love.
Defining your Story
What is it that makes you, you? Although a simple question, it is critical to the story you tell.
Acting as a storyteller, especially with something as intimate as your life, means you must be capable of articulating your story in a manner that captivates your audience. Before you are able to captivate audiences, you must be aware of what it is you are telling. Figuring out your story is the lynch-pin on which this entire process hinges. If you fail to define your story, you lose the opportunity to use it in a constructive manner.
The beauty of your life is that every story is individualized. There are elements of your story that no one else has experienced in the manner which you have. It is important to recognize these and determine how they can be utilized in telling a tale. Remember, just because something is unique doesn’t mean it is compelling. Many times our lives have different pieces but that does not mean every detail must be shared.
Defining your story is finding the delicate balance between sharing unnecessary information yet risking never providing enough. Crafting your story, learn what is appropriate and what is not. When defining your story, ponder what you can tell that while not the full picture will highlight elements of the extraordinary that stand above the mundane. It is not enough to have a unique story but it is essential that this story takes its listeners along a path featuring clear scenes of lessons learned. Your story should be a compilation of points in your life but should clearly instill the message you aim to spread.
Once you have defined these unique moments and understand the path you will walk with the audience, you can then focus on how you are telling this story.
Sharing your Story
The late writer Christopher Hitchens taught his students, “if you can speak, you can write.” Once you have mastered your voice, you can craft written words eloquently. The importance of this concept is that you must be able to do both habits well. Becoming a skilled writer or orator is no easy task. Accomplishing mastery of these skills requires learning from failure yet with practice they become easier, more familiar, and more digestible for your audiences.
When I first began seriously writing, I was not awful yet I knew there were areas that needed significant improvement. Frequently, I would send an article to my editor only to receive my draft returned chalked with edits. From grammar to sentence structure to diction, my expertise grew. Even now these tools still increase. The same can be said of my speaking; where a few years ago my talents were a rough skill, as I worked through the practice of conversing with audiences, it became much easier to tell my stories.
Whatever your final message, you must practice telling it. Learn which pieces you will tell, when you will tell them, and what you hope will blossom as a result of sharing these thoughts. In the beginning you may find your story rough, sharp and skewed, and in turn unheard or unnoticed. Over the course of retelling and practicing this art of storytelling, you will slowly learn what you can do to better share your story and how this can manifest into the most meaningful tale possible.
Controlling your Story
The last piece lie in controlling your story. Different than sharing your story and how you disseminate this information, controlling your story means actively crafting the direction your stories take.
When you put your story into the world, especially within the 21st century, it becomes a part of the community. To a degree, your story no longer belongs to you but instead is now owned by the people. Once released, there is the potential that your story will undergo constant adaptation as it is used and retold without your knowledge. It is impossible for you to share your story without expecting some loss of possession. As your story is retold, as pieces are lobbed off and parts of your message appropriated, you will find that you may not always love the end results.
If you ever share something controversial, if you provide a piece of story that is difficult to swallow, if you speak on a subject that is negative, you may find these are the only pieces of your story replicated. How then do you manage to tell a story that is becoming of your tale and not a shambling mess of only a portion of your information?
This is where control comes into play. You must decide the information you share and who you share this information with. In telling these pieces, be certain to take ownership. If you want your story to have significance, do not shy away from what you share out of fear of being judged. Instead take complete power over your story. There are pieces of your story that you may not want to share, but figure out how to share them in a manner that is constructive and if nothing else, will inspire those around you.
This is something that I have learned by telling my story to others. For the longest time, I have suffered from addiction and issues of substance abuse. These are pieces of my story that I have never shied away from; after all with public blogs on these topics it is difficult for me to exactly be coy about them. What I found is by sharing these pieces openly, I could control them, crafting the conversation how I wanted. It was difficult the first time I publicly shared these yet at the same time I was taking ownership over my story.
After one of my tellings, I once had someone ask me if I were ever worried that what I shared would be used against me. My response was simply no. I have made my story a part of my life. From my travels to my passions to my art to my addiction; I completely own everything about my story. By controlling our messages, it allows us to craft that path our stories will take. By controlling our stories we can talk all of the pieces, good and bad, and instead turn these into lessons utilized to positively inspire.
When you are defining your story, it can be a labor that will burden you. In first controlling your story and what you are sharing, pieces may weigh on you. At least initially. By becoming a proficient storyteller you have the power to create something that is worthwhile. By being courageous in controlling the story that you create, you craft something amazing. Whenever you are bold in your creations, you are bold in your outcomes. Defining your story, shaping the way you disseminate this information, and figuring out how you control this story is up to you. It is important that no matter what, you share your story.
The only true possession is self-possession. Once we have accepted that the only thing we can own is our self, we can become embrace that the only thing we can really share is our profound story. By embracing this, we are empowered. By controlling this, we empower others.